I so delight in what we’re doing here today, celebrating our own faith and celebrating the faith of others, and doing that together. It’s a magnificent idea, and I applaud the Abbotsford Interfaith Movement and the Baha’i for organizing this.
I love what we’ve been considering, and I’m hearing through it a theme of humility. I believe that all our faiths call us to humility. Is that not true? Does your faith call you to humility? I believe all faiths do, and that within all faiths there is a calling to a humility of mind, meaning that we’re called to understand that our best thinking and our best beliefs about our faith are not the reality that’s behind it—that there’s a deeper knowing than we have yet attained that is available in our faith. And that’s why, as I see it, Sikhism could say that we’re a student all our lives. Why are we always a student? It’s because there is more within our faith. I believe that’s a teaching that is within every faith.
And I believe that it would be a noble cause for us, here today, to fully understand that for ourselves and bring that understanding to the world. Because is it not true that the origin of all things is only one thing? And even though it comes to you in the way that it does, and you have your faith and your belief and your way of understanding it, behind that faith and that belief, for you and for me, is one reality. And yet we have the privilege of understanding that one reality in the way that we do.
The humility of faith that says that there’s more shouldn’t lessen our appreciation for what we do know and the beliefs that have brought us to the knowing that we have. It shouldn’t lessen our appreciation for the sacred names that we use for that ultimate reality. And yet our humility as people of faith can allow us to come together in acknowledgment of that higher reality that is the source of us all, that is within us all, however understood, however we practice our faith. Surely there’s only one reality within all people and one reality that created this earth, just as there is one sun. There is one inner reality.
I imagine the teachers of our faiths, and us as students before them. I think of the master teacher Jesus. The record says that he could be hard on his pupils. I imagine that he could be hard on me. He could tell me, “No, you don’t fully understand what I’m saying. You haven’t gotten the depth of it.” In your faith, could you imagine that? That if you were before the original teacher of your faith, they might urge you to a deeper understanding, a broader understanding, and one that you fully knew for yourself? If you are a spiritual leader, certainly you encounter that in those you teach and in those you lead. Are you not calling them to a deeper knowing and to a humility about what they now know? I believe we’re all called to that kind of humility.
I did some research, and I would love to enlist you to assist me on a grand research project. It is my supposition that within all faiths there is a teaching of humility that calls us to a deeper knowing, beyond the intellectual ideas of our faith. And I want to share some of what I have so far and, if you’re up for it, I want to enlist you in helping me find more. So if you’ve come across some of these teachings in your faith, I would love to hear them, and I would love to be able to share them with others.
Lao Tzu says this:
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
There was a Hindu master from the fourth century B.C. who says:
I am the infinite deep in whom all the worlds appear to rise. Beyond all form, forever still. Even so am I.
Confucius said very simply and pointedly:
When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at the finger.
In Leviticus, in the Old Testament, it says this:
Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the Lord your God.
And certainly real teachings are like that. They call us to go beyond the images, beyond the names, to the knowing that the images and the names convey.
Second Corinthians says simply:
The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
Hafiz, a fourteenth-century Persian poet, says:
I have learned so much from God that I can no longer call myself a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew. The truth has shared so much of itself with me that I can no longer call myself a man, a woman, an angel, or even a pure soul. Love has befriended me so completely, it has turned to ash and freed me of every concept and image my mind has ever known.
Here are words Moses brought:
I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.
There are others that I have, which I won’t read. But I imagine that you, in your faith, can call to mind similar teachings. And what I say is that when we adopt the intellectual beliefs of our faith as if they were the ultimate reality, we end up being divided. Your name for God is different from mine, and so you are different from me.
I believe we have to cast off that kind of thinking. We can appreciate the names by which we know the Beloved and appreciate the beliefs that bring us into a deeper knowing and a higher level of behavior in the world, and a higher level of function. We can appreciate our faiths without making the intellectual beliefs of them our God. They are a guidepost, a connection point, a touchstone, powerfully in our lives, leading us to what we hold in common as humanity.
Indeed, we were born of one source, were we not? If you are Muslim or Sikh, Christian or Jew, is that dividing us or is that uniting us? Of course, we know that too often in the world in which we live it’s been a source of division among faiths. And then within the faiths there are sects, and then they fight, and then the sects divide and fight.
We end it here. We end it here with the secret code hidden in plain sight within our faiths that are calling us to a deeper level of knowing and a deeper level of function. I believe we need to be speaking about this publicly. We need to get over the embarrassment we may have, whatever has held us back from sharing this deeper truth of our faith with each other. We need to, I believe, celebrate each other and celebrate our common origin, celebrate the real God that lives within our faith.
That goes to anyone anywhere, of whatever faith or whatever lack of faith. Surely the energy in our atoms is neither atheist or Christian or Muslim. This is the energy of the Creator, the energy of the real God. God is real, not just a matter of human belief, human concoction, or human fantasy. There is whatever that mystical source of power is, the mystical source of Creation that lives within our atoms, but then lives within our heart and within our mind, and gives birth to love, gives birth to creative thought, gives birth to invention, gives birth to culture. It’s within us, and it is real. It is not simply a matter of culture or race, or the part of the world we come from, or the religion that we subscribe to. Those things can introduce us to the real God within our faith. How exciting is that?
Our God, yes, is invoked through our prayers and through our meditation, and through our worship in our minds, in our own hearts. We draw near to that reality by the practice of our faith. But that practice didn’t create that reality. It allowed us to draw near to it.
It’s said humorously that in the seven Days of Creation, God created man, and ever after man has returned the favor, creating God in our own image. And yet our truthfulness tells us that our
beliefs and all the images that we create don’t change that reality one iota. They connect us to it, and that’s their significance. But it doesn’t change it and it doesn’t make it. And just because I hold a belief doesn’t make it so, even though my belief can connect me profoundly with the reality.
I picture myself at the feet of the spiritual teachers that I hold in highest esteem. And, for me, among those and above all others is Jesus. I’m not here to tell you that that’s what it should be for you, but I’m saying that’s what it is for me. You can imagine yourself at the feet of the teacher that you hold in highest esteem. I believe that, for all of us, that teacher would be calling us to our humility and to a deeper knowing.
The founder of my faith had a saying that I would share with you, and it was simply this: “Keep coming, blessed one.” I believe that a true spiritual teacher is saying that, has said it, in whatever words, to us all: Keep coming. Keep coming into a deeper knowing of the reality that’s being shared.
Knowing is an interesting word. It can imply intellectual knowing, and that’s part of the picture. I am not an anti-intellectual, so I applaud intellectual knowing. But I do believe that the kind of knowing that we’re called to goes beyond an idea. It goes into some kind of intuitive space; it’s heart knowing. And then heart knowing and ideas and beliefs and visions can turn into embodied knowing. I really know spiritually when my living is an embodiment not only of what’s being taught but also of the reality that’s behind the teaching.
I learned from an imam that in the Islamic tradition there’s a word, which is ayah. An ayah is a sign or a window. And it’s said that the words of the Qur’an are an ayah, meaning an opening into a reality. But not only the words of the Qur’an, the daily experiences of our life are like that. Our faith can be like that; the scripture of our faith can be like that. But also our life can be like that. Nature is like that. There’s a deeper knowing that’s possible if we allow nature to be a window. This imam said that another person can be that window for you, and your own soul is a window into the reality of God. And we get to be that for each other.
In the Old Testament it’s said, “I open you the windows of heaven.” I open it to you, but also you are that window. I open you as a window. So may we be that together, whatever our faith. It’s a privilege to be here and share in this company of open people who not only embrace their own faith but celebrate others who do the same. Thank you.